The summer is the perfect time to enjoy some fun in the sun with your friends and family, but the sun can be harmful to your skin if you don’t use proper protection.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun (and even from tanning beds) can cause injury to skin cells that result in damaged DNA and can lead to skin cancers. These injuries can wreak havoc on our skin when those cells react to the UV exposure. Sunburns are uncomfortable, but they can lead to more serious complications. Excessive sun exposure can also increase or accentuate skin wrinkling or cause pigmentation changes which looks like (and is) premature aging.
What can we do to prevent these dangers and protect ourselves?
Say ‘No’ to Tanning
Whether you prefer get to your perfect sun-kissed skin from a tanning bed or from the sun, you could forgo that process with a bronzing cream. Lying out in the sun for a substantial amount of time is not healthy for the skin. The urge to tan is understandable given that summer means getting to defrost your body from the winter chills, however tanning lotions are available that could give you the same tan without having to sit out in the heat for hours. It’s super easy to apply and can give you the same tanned appearance without the threat of skin damage.
If you can avoid being out in the sun, then do so. However, if you must venture out, take heed of the following advice to help protect your skin and your health.
Lotions and liquids that contain chemicals with a Sun Protection Factor (aka SPF) rating help protect your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. The most effective way to use SPF lotion is to apply it before you go outside, to all skin that would be exposed to the sun, following the directions on the package. The UVA and UVB rays are what cause the cells to become damaged; therefore, a higher SPF provides better protection against harm. Remember that higher SPF values in a product provide relatively better protection, but only up to an SPF of about 50. Creams with an SPF higher than 50 are probably not more effective, they’re just more expensive. Applying sunscreen before exposure is a good habit to get into; a recent study showed only 14% of American men and 30% of American women regularly put sunscreen on their faces and other exposed skin before heading outside for more than an hour (1), when this is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself long-term.
Wear Your Protection
There is now sun-protective clothing that helps to guard against the impacts of the sun. The clothing fibers are made with UV-inhibiting ingredients, which help to block the harmful rays.
Sunglasses are also important, as they protect your eyes from harm. The cumulative effects of UV rays can be a cause of cataracts as you get older.
Hats with a wide brim can block the sun from directly hitting your face. The last place you want skin cancer is on your face, but remember your face is the body part that gets the most sun exposure.
- Use sunscreen every day, even if it’s cloudy.
- Apply at least one ounce of sunscreen (enough to fill a shot glass) at least 15 to 30 minutes before going outside. Also use a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
- Make sure your sunscreen is water resistant and has a SPF of 30 or higher. Other sunscreens may help keep you from getting sunburned, but they won’t protect against skin cancer.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours. Reapply every hour if you are swimming or sweating.
- Keep babies younger than 6 months old completely covered and in the shade.
- Limit the amount of time you’re in the sun between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. This is when the sun’s rays are the most intense. Practice the shadow rule: if your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are at their strongest, and you should find shade.
- Accessorize with a hat that shades your face, neck, and ears and a pair of sunglasses. Sunglasses with lenses that have 99% to 100% UV absorption provide optimal protection for the eyes and the surrounding skin.